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According to Plan: The Story of Modern Sidewalls for the Homes of America

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According to Plan: The Story of Modern Sidewalls for the Homes of America

Published 1952

The beauty and functionality of asbestos sidewalls. With a visit to Levittown, N.Y. and an interview with Norman Denny, vice president of materials for Levitt & Sons, builders. An excellent film on Fifties standardized building processes.

Run time 17:18
Producer Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor Asbestos Cement Products Association
Audio/Visual Sd, C


Sequence of CUs of couple seated on couch in front of table. They happily are arranging the walls of a model house on the table before them
CU same couple on couch turning pages of a large home plan catalog / sample book. They look at book, smile, then look up stupidly at camera, then back at book.
CU pages of large book being turned, revealing a series of drawings of suburban houses with trees and happy families
CU scientist swirling liquid in a small beaker. As he pours contents into another beaker, camera pans left laboratory equipment to CU of large Florence flask with boiling red liquid
Dissolve to medium shot of woman sunning in blue strapless summer dress in garden with fake flamingos. She adjusts her dress.
Dissolve to CU woman picking up coiled garden hose on lawn.
LS woman picks up coiled garden hose and walks past white wrought iron furniture in suburban garden
CU woman's feet walk across red and white diagonal pattern on asphalt tile floor
CU asbestos shingles on roof of house. Camera pans right across roof top.
CU hands breaking square block of asbestos in half showing fibers. Forceps pull fibers out of center of block.
ECU magnified pencil point indicating magnified asbestos fibers (fibers not recognizable but pencil point is interesting)
CU forceps picking up a clump of asbestos fibers out of a lab tray
CU forceps holding asbestos fibers over flame
CU lab technician examines slab of asbestos siding
Dissolve to lab technician in front of scale, recording information from the scale onto a clipboard
CU blow torch against piece of asbestos siding
CU hand removes piece of siding from fish tank of water
CU cylindrical lamp in center of drum (scientific testing equipment)
CU inside of drum with various colored tile samples being sprayed with liquid from a central rotating nozzle
Dissolve to MS lab technician painting a piece of shingle with a paint brush. CU hand with paint brush applying paint to shingle.
CU hands with etching or cutting tool scores surface of asbestos shingle
MS workers nailing shingles to side of house
LS man wheels baby carriage up front walk of suburban home
LS and CU man converses with worker nailing shingles to side of house
LS row of small suburban development houses
LS camera pans across row of small suburban development houses with road construction in front (sewer excavation?)
Dissolve to LS man leaves front door of house and walks to street (row of suburban development houses)
LS front of suburban houses with bushes and trees. Car pulls into driveway. MS car in driveway of suburban house.
MS corner of roof of house shot from below through bush of yellow roses
LS pan across curving street of new suburban development (no trees). Car drives down street.
CU front door suburban house
LS pan across new suburban development (near-identical houses)
LS small group of people cross street in suburban development still under construction. Parked cars, pick-up trucks, poles with "opening" flags
CU back of suburban house with windowboxes
LS ranch style new suburban house (hill behind); Car pulls into driveway
2 LS two men examine siding on suburban house
CU peak of roof of house shot from below under eaves
CU map of United States of America - Various regions are filled in by different color shingles
MS businessman in suit at drafting table, front of framed drawings on wall, turns toward camera and talks a lot.
CU sign with arrows reads " Levittown " (Levittown, Long Island, New York)
LS children jump off diving board at community pool - suburban houses in background
LS and CU man (Norman Denny, vice president of materials for Levitt and Sons) with clipboard in front of shingled house writes on board then looks at the camera and speaks.
LS corner of suburban house
LS Levittown street - suburban homes with carports. Camera pans right to left
CU face of happy man talking
Dissolve to LS front of suburban home with small porch with columns around doorway. Woman in apron sweeps walk. MCU housewife with broom, apron, and pearls leans on broom and speaks to camera. CU same woman speaking to camera. MCU same.
Dissolve to spiral binder with outline of America and the letters ACPA. Hand turned pages of framed photos of factory, office buildings, a large modern barn, church, older traditional house, newer house, and small development house.
Dissolve to CU palm trees in hurricane. LS dissiduous trees in hurricane. MS palms in hurricane, building appears in background. MS house in storm with man on ladder at second story window (unclear shot). LS house with storm clouds in background. House with clear sky in background. Fade out.
Fade in on couple in living room in front of model of house on table. Someone from off-screen hands the man a chunk of shingle which they examine. she places it up against model of house. They look pleased. Camera zooms in to model of house. Dissolve to LS of real house (same design).

ASBESTOS HOMES CONSTRUCTION BUILDINGS HOUSES EXTERIORS WALLS Couples Levittown, N.Y. Denny, Norman Signs (Levittown) Siding Suburbia Suburban homes Newlyweds House planning Chemists Laboratories Red fluid Glassware Beakers


Reviewer: JSBejma - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 22, 2015
Subject: Not Allowed Everywhere
The (middle class mostly skilled blue collar) neighborhood our postwar home was built had many blocks where brick to the peak was required and asbestos or clapboard were disallowed by zoning law. Nonetheless, a few asbestos homes somehow got built and a big row ensued, apparently including vandalism of homes that were being asbestos sided. The asbestos homes were to be face bricked in 5 yrs. But only a couple ever were - I guess there was no legal basis. The asbestos homes were white and chintzy looking - nothing like most of the ones you see here. Eventually most of them were painted another color and fit in much better - especially once the elm trees were full grown (and hadn't yet died of Dutch elm disease) and houses didn't stand out so much, no matter what.. But what a controversy!

That was not chrysotile asbestos. It's the safe stuff. Chrysotile has short non-flexible fibers.

Interesting film.
Reviewer: jeepingeo - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 26, 2007
Subject: Historically engaging, mildly entertaining
It is hard to believe the lengths they went to in this film to make you *want* asbestos siding. Lots of talk about the "wonders of asbestos" and great images of early to mid-fifties home building.

Perhaps, of greatest interest to me, my house is visible in the scene describing the "El Dorado Ranchos" where they show the people walking the street by model homes and the colored flags flying. Even more interesting is the fact that my home has WOOD and STUCCO siding and it has always been that way (at least as far as I can tell). Not sure why it was featured in a film on asbestos siding, probably looked good, or maybe asbestos was an option on the tract that the original owners of the house did not choose (thanks go to them). Interesting.
Reviewer: eltatero - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 3, 2005
Subject: Hooray for asbestos!
This film documents the making of houses like the one I live in with asbestos siding.
A largely unknown (and ignored) fact: nearly all asbestos mineral used for industrial siding and insulation applications in the US during the 40s, 50s, and 60s were CAo2 (calcite) derived (dissolves when moistened), the rest was SIo2 (silica) (doesn't dissolve). Therefore, some selectivity in asbestos removal would have saved the gov A LOT of money.
Reviewer: DrRich - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 31, 2004
Subject: Boy that narrator's voice is familiar
Having grown up in the 1940s it was easy to recognize the voice of Fred Foy as the narrator for the first half of this film. Mr. Foy was the narrator/announcer for the classic Lone Ranger radio and television episodes. It was he who asked the audience to "Return with us now to the thrilling days of yesteryear."
He brings the same pacing and drama to his vocal style for this film as he did to his many many Lone Ranger episodes. If only the homeowners, contractors, and espcially installers knew the kind of high drama awaiting them due to their use of asbestos.

It was a real treat hearing Fred Foy trying his best to make this film exciting.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavorite - February 10, 2003
Subject: According to Plan: The Story of Modern Sidewalls for the Homes of America
This 50s film tells prospective homeowners how happy they will be if they put asbestos cement siding on their homes. It tells you way more than you want to know about this fairly dull building material. Mildly campy moments include the opening scene featuring a 50s couple putting together a model home in an oh-so-happy way, and the colors available, which are as follows: moss green (i.e. grey), brown, grey, and ivory (i.e. brown). There are lots of scenes of 50s suburbia when it was still new, including scenes of Levittown being built, which gives the film some historical interest. But just how interesting can you make shingles anyway? This film desperately needs a supernatural visitor or two to liven things up.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavorite - December 17, 2002
Subject: The Wonders Of Asbestos!
This nightmare inducing film explains away the awesomeness of Asbestos, which noone knew at the time (I think) the full health consequences of. This excellent Jem Dandy short glamourizes the, well, unglamourous topic of sidewalling and attempts to make people EXCITED about it, when choosing a new home.. Even though 3/4 of the homes showcased here look pretty much the same.
Reviewer: Holly Daggers - favoritefavorite - December 12, 2002
Subject: No, not THAT asbestos! This is the good kind.
Although this isn't a particularly interesting film, it does contain essential footage of Levittown, NY, including construction sites, fully lived-in neighborhoods, and a public pool. Similar housing developments across the country are lovingly displayed in slow panoramic shots, displaying the "ticky-tacky" and generic boxes of Suburbia. Obligitory scenes of scientists in labcoats and boiling beekers of colored water symbolize *t*e*c*h*n*o*l*o*g*y*. Mineral fibers are cracked open from a rock and held over a flame  but don't burn. Oooooohh, the wonders of asbestos, not the lethal blown-in powder, but friendly durable fibers caught in thin cement sheets which are nailed on your home as "sidewall" shingles. There are several face-to-camera interviews where a person stares into the lens and answers questions from an unseen announcer. Generic newlyweds banter unbelievably about building a home and having children. Really only of interest to someone looking for footage of new and colorful low-income housing (think: the pastel neigborhood from Edward Scissorhands).
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